The Covfefe Kerfuffle and the Rush to Register Trending Terms

The Covfefe Kerfuffle and the Rush to Register Trending Terms

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While many of us are working our way through the flood of thought-provoking analysis of Matal v. Tam, I’m taking a break with some lighter fare, namely, covfefe. In case you missed it, the viral non-word “covfefe” was born out of a supposedly meaninglessly typo (perhaps a misspelling of “coverage”) in one of President Trump’s early morning tweets (alternatively, some suggest that covfefe has a secret meaning known only by a “small group” of officials–stay tuned!)

Mere hours after President Trump’s tweet came the predictable flurry of opportunistic trademark applications.  For example, only 3 hours after the tweet appeared, the first “covfefe” application was filed for COVFEFE COFFEE for various coffee-related goods.

As of now, there are 32 applications pending at the USPTO to register a mark containing the word “covfefe.”  Although many of them are filed with an intent-to-use basis, there are also some interesting applications that claim actual use in commerce. For a couple examples, see the following:

  • COVFEFE for an odd variety of goods including “Party favor gift boxes sold empty”; “Nylon flags”; “Swimming floats”; and “Christmas tree ornaments.”  The specimen of use is an Amazon.com product page showing six empty “Covfefe” treat boxes for the bargain price of $99 plus $4.49 shipping.  (You would think some treats would be included for shelling out over a hundred bucks!)
  • COVFEFE for “sandwiches” by the applicant Seattle Biscuit Company.  The specimen is humorous but also a bit disconcerting — it is a photograph of a restaurant’s “specials” menu for various types of biscuits, most of which sound delicious except the “Covfefe” biscuit, which is described only as “???” for 10 bucks. Not sure if I would be adventurous enough to try that mystery biscuit.

As we’ve written before (for example, here and here), it is common to see a rush to register trending or viral terms. But such efforts are usually unsuccessful and often arise from a misunderstanding of trademark law, perhaps the thinking that merely filing the first application would confer exclusive rights over a popular term. Trademark registrations are not simply awarded to whomever is the quickest to file an application. Among the many requirements for registration, there are two hurdles that most often block the “trending term” applications.

First, registration requires that the applicant demonstrate actual use in commerce, i.e., use of the applied-for mark in connection with the sale of goods or services. This of course requires that the applicant have the capacity (and willingness) to operate a business to make such sales. Many trending-term applications die after the applicant fails to submit a proper statement of use and specimen of use.

Second, the applied-for term must function as a trademark, i.e., it must point uniquely to the applicant as the source of the applicant’s goods or services. This is a particularly difficult showing in the trending-term context as such terms are inherently used by many third parties. This hurdle blocks many trending-term applications. The USPTO frequently concludes that such trending terms are merely ornamental or merely convey an informational message, and do not function as a trademark that points to the applicant as the unique source.

In addition, as a practical matter, the viral popularity of a certain trending term is typically short-lived and tied to some recent event or circumstance, rather than being tied to the applicant’s goods or services–thus such popularity is unlikely to provide sustained commercial benefit to the applicant. Overall, rushing to adopt and register a trending term is usually not the best branding strategy, both as a legal and practical matter. What do you think?

 

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June 22, 2017 at 10:44AM

The Balance of Creativity and Productivity

The Balance of Creativity and Productivity

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The Balance of Creativity and Productivity

If you read Copyblogger for any length of time, you’ll notice a theme that comes up again and again — the balance of creative “arty stuff” with pragmatic productivity.

Creativity makes our content worth reading. Strategic implementation gets us where we want to go. Each depends on the other.

On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman talked about cultivating a Pomeranian state of mind to expand your creativity. (Read the post to find out why you actually do want to do this.)

And on Tuesday, she outlined a plan to use that Pomeranian creativity to actually make something that other people want to read, watch, or listen to.

Finally, on Wednesday, our editorial team sent me their favorite writing books — a healthy mix of the arty, the crafty, and the strategic.

Over on the Copyblogger FM podcast, I shared two resources that have seriously impressed me — one on the science of learning (this is great if you’re improving your skills, but it will also be incredibly useful for course creators) and one on creative focus (hello shiny).

Want to make great leaps in your writing this summer? Get your Inner Pomeranian going, pick up some of the books on the reading list, sharpen that focus just a bit, and decide on a project to implement with Stefanie’s plan. By September, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content


creativity is not linear This Common Belief Could Be Blocking Your Creative Potential

by Stefanie Flaxman


think about where you could be one year from now if you start todayA Simple Plan for Managing and Completing a Content Project

by Stefanie Flaxman


Editorial RoundtableYour Summer Reading List from the Copyblogger Editorial Team

by Sonia Simone


Two Powerful Resources for Life-Changing GrowthTwo Powerful Resources for Life-Changing Growth

by Sonia Simone


How Merriam-Webster Lexicographer and Author Kory Stamper Writes: Part OneHow Merriam-Webster Lexicographer and Author Kory Stamper Writes: Part One

by Kelton Reid


8 Ways Startups Can Make Money with an Online Audience8 Ways Startups Can Make Money with an Online Audience

by Brian Clark


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June 22, 2017 at 09:17AM

The next hill

The next hill

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How many times have we said that we want innovation, change, growth, maybe even a revolution?

Sometimes we express these hopes and desires for our organization or society writ large. Sometimes our intention is directed squarely at ourselves. Whatever the case, too often we talk a good game but actually do very little.

Fear is one problem. Anything truly worth doing involves risks. And putting ourselves out there, sharing our ideas, committing to make a real difference, doing the hard, uncomfortable work, can be scary. Of course much of this is pure imagination. As Mark Twain reminds us: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

The other problem is we greatly overestimate our ability to understand the future. And too often we think that our actions will lead to an easily predictable outcome. Too often we believe that with enough planning and analysis we can control the way forward. Too often without a clear view of all the steps to success we don’t even take the first one. Our illusion of control and our flawed gift of prophecy all contribute to our stuck-ness.

Having a precise map for our next road trip is a solid idea. But being attached to that notion for journeys of innovation and profound change is worthless. The way forward for personal and organizational transformation is fraught with twists and turns, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. The moment we believe that before we can begin we need to be able to see our way clear to the end is the moment paralysis starts to set in.

Along our path, personal or otherwise, we will be climbing a series of hills. When we reach the top of each hill more will be revealed. What we couldn’t see from the base will now lay before us. We will have the lessons from our trek. We will have a clearer view of the landscape ahead. We will have the confidence gained from having successfully completed our hike.

It’s only complicated if we make it so.

Get pointed in the right direction.

Start moving.

Just make it to the next hill.

Recalibrate.

Rinse and repeat.

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June 22, 2017 at 09:05AM